People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is calling for animal cruelty counts to be added to the criminal charges against Holy Fire arson suspect Forrest Gordon Clark.
The 51-year-old, who appeared in the jail courtroom today after refusing to come out of his cell the day before, is currently charged with one felony count each of aggravated arson damaging at least five inhabited structures, arson of inhabited property, arson of forest and criminal threats and two misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest.
A conviction could send him to state prison for life, but PETA Vice President Colleen O’Brien nonetheless is calling for more charges against Clark.
“Millions of wild animals—from deer, raccoons, foxes and bears to coyotes, frogs, birds and insects—are losing their homes and their lives in shockingly painful ways, as they’re unable to escape from this inferno,” O’Brien says in a statement from her Norfolk, Virginia-based activist group. “PETA is calling for cruelty-to-animals charges to be added to those pending against the man now in custody and accused of starting the fire.”
Adding additional criminal counts would fall on the Orange County District Attorney’s office, whose spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden is not ruling out the possibility.
“This remains an open and very active investigation with information continuing to come in,” she tells the Weekly. “All of the reports will be thoroughly reviewed and additional charges may be added based on the evidence.”
During Clark’s bizarre appearance today, the court commissioner postponed the defendant’s arraignment–which is where he would enter a plea–until Aug. 17.
Attendees of the proceedings report that Clark, who was wearing an orange jail-issued jumpsuit, at first refused to face the commissioner and covered his face with his long black hair. His attorney had tried to waive the appearance, explaining that his client feared “retaliation.” But Clark later stared directly at television cameras, exposing his face to local news viewers.
The commissioner, who had ordered Clark to appear despite his lawyer’s plea, today ordered bail to remain at $1 million, prompting Clark to shout, “I can handle a million right now easily.”
Meanwhile, PETA, whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way,” recently posted tips for residents affected by wildfires.
When it comes to helping all beings in need of assistance due to the Holy Fire, GoFundMe created a site that guarantees all campaigns listed will direct contributed funds to the right places. Go to: https://www.gofundme.com/cause/holy-fire
Menlo Park-based Facebook’s community activated Safety Check allows people to find one another in the midst of crisis. For the Holy Fire, go to: https://www.facebook.com/crisisresponse/trabuco-canyon-california-wildfire-aug09-2018/about/
So far, more than 160 people have requested help due to the Holy Fire, according to Facebook, which points to: https://www.facebook.com/crisisresponse/trabuco-canyon-california-wildfire-aug09-2018/support
As of this morning, the fire had grown to 10,236 acres and remained five percent contained. At least 12 structures have been destroyed. Governor Brown has declared a state of emergency in Orange and Riverside counties, where about 20,000 people have been evacuated. No injuries have been reported.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.